For many years it was widely believed that only a giant ripping gash torn by the iceberg could have doomed such a magnificent ship. A "300-foot gash in the hull" was often mentioned—just like the image we show in our issue from two weeks after the tragedy:
Later calculations looked at the rate with which water flooded the ship during the two hours and 40 minutes it stayed afloat after the collision and showed that "the gash" in reality would have resulted in only slight damage to the hull, perhaps amounting a dozen square meters in total. This deduction was confirmed in 1985 when submersibles imaged the hull of the Titanic resting on the ocean floor four kilometers down. The images revealed several small gashes, or perhaps several hull plates had popped apart giving the illusion of gashes. (Historians have suggested that the wrought iron rivets holding the plates together were not as strong as they should have been.)
As the complexity of engineering projects increases exponentially, so does the focus on safety. Within any system there is no danger more potent, more capable of causing harm, than human frailty. In January of 2012 the Costa Concordia, the largest luxury liner built in Italy, manufactured at the Fincantieri shipyards in the ancient seafaring city of Genoa to the highest standards of safety specified by law, struck a reef in the Mediterranean, and partially capsized, killing dozens of people. The ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, seems to have steered his ship onto the rocks in a moment of weakness: The courts and the tabloids as well as armchair experts of the Internet are still disputing whether that weakness had anything to do with a comely 25-year-old Moldovan ex-dancer—and a Roman god called Cupid.